Tuesday, July 06, 2021

TV Wars: Battle of the LARP

TVB and ViuTV recently had their first direct battle. Both stations produced a variety show that involves "live action role playing" (LARP), where players role play as characters in a scenario and solve mysteries. To intensify things, the twin shows debuted on the same day, in the same time slot. 

Let's see how the stations fared in the "Battle of the LARP"!


TVB's Case Unclosed was hosted by Alex Fong, Sammi Cheung, Arnold Kwok and Kayan Yau. Matthew Ho, Moon Lau, Pakho Chau and Stephanie Cheng appeared as guests. 

ViuTV's All Suspicious featured a rotating cast of players, headlined by Justin Cheung and Hedwig Tam, and included Yatho Wong, George Au, Tang Lai Ying, Jace Chan and others. 

Verdict: Tie. Unless you are a fan of a particular artist, it is unlikely that the line-up for either show had much effect on the average viewer. 


Case Unclosed had two cases over five episodes. Each case featured six players, led by “Detective Soap” Alex Fong. Each case began with the players introducing themselves and their timeline. It was followed by two rounds of investigation and discussion. Detective Soap also got a chance to question two players alone. Afterwards, the players made closing statements and then voted on the culprit. The truth was revealed through a narrated reenactment. 

All Suspicious had six cases over 15 episodes. Each case had between 6-8 players. A brief description of each player’s role was shown to the audience using title cards. The players then jumped straight into investigation. The players were free to talk with each other and form alliances. They may also have individual side missions to perform. There were generally two rounds of investigation and discussion before the players voted on the culprit. The truth was revealed in an epilogue. 

Verdict: Case Unclosed. The format of the game is actually pretty similar on both shows, but Case Unclosed wins by making the case and characters easier to follow. The chief complaint from netizens of All Suspicious was how it had too many characters and confusing relationships between them, which made the cases hard to follow.


Both of Case Unclosed’s cases were murder mysteries. The stories seem acceptable for this type of game, as each character had a plausible motive and opportunity to commit the crime. However, the evidence and characters were thinly developed. There was sparse evidence for each case and it only weakly supported the supposed truth. The characters lacked background besides the basics and their timelines. 

All Suspicious had more variety of cases aside from murder, such an art heist and bomb threat. Some of the cases also incorporated side missions and secondary plots. The character backgrounds were sketched out and they each had secrets or hidden relationships with other characters. There was an abundance of evidence to sort through and most had an explainable purpose to the plot. 

Verdict: All Suspicious. The cases, evidence and characters were richer and added interesting layers to the show. The show improved after the first case, as the audience became more familiar with the players and game. The players also broke the fourth wall more to explain to the audience what was going on.


Case Unclosed looked like an amateur production. The rooms were set up in a studio next to each other and labelled with paper signs. Walls and ceilings were missing. Players have to walk along a marked path on the ground to avoid walking through "walls." The set felt crowded as the players and crew moved around the space. Cameras and areas outside of the set frequently appeared in shots. 

All Suspicious looked much more professional. The show was filmed in real locations, but did not suffer from the lightning issues that seem to plague non-TVB shows. The room set-ups were more realistic and spacious. 

Verdict: All Suspicious. The production values looked better than expected and overall, looked more professional than Case Unclosed.

Overall: All Suspicious

ViuTV clearly took the more serious approach to producing their show and put together an all-around professional production. Meanwhile, TVB seems to have hastily clobbered together a show. You know you've lost the battle when you have to add a disclaimer that the show was made on a low budget to preempt criticism. 

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